History of Donor Conception in the UK


The first UK publication of a modern account of what was then called ‘Artificial Insemination by Donor’ (AID) was produced in the British Medical Journal. The doctor behind the research, Mary Barton, was vilified in the press and condemned worldwide. Dr. Mary Barton stated that over a period of five years about 300 children had been conceived as a result of artificial insemination.

​1940’s and 1950’s

AID was carried out discreetly by private medical practitioners. It was decided that it was best to leave unregulated. Parents were told to never tell anyone, not even the child. (This practice of secrecy continued on for decades)


The first successful human pregnancy with frozen spermatozoa was reported in 1953.


The sperm banking business becomes popular and commercialised.

​1 August 1991

Donor conception remained unregulated in the UK until this date. All information on all fertility treatments involving a donor since 1 August 1991 is held by the HFEA. Later on Regulations changed meaning those people in the UK who have been conceived with the help of donated eggs, sperm or embryos after this date are able to request information about their donor or donor-conceived siblings. No rights are conferred to those conceived before this date.

1 April 2005

Donor anonymity is removed for all those conceived after 1 April 2005. When they turn 18, they have the right to find out the identity of their donor. Anyone who was conceived before this date also has the right to learn the identity of their donor (on request) if their donor comes forward and re-registers as willing to be identified